What happens to fat left over from a liposuction procedure? Brad Pitt might choose to turn it in to soap, but scientists at Stanford University have figured out a surprising alternative: stem cells. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are highly sought after because of their ability to transform in to many other types of cells within the human body. Finding a reliable source for these stem cells has provided difficult but Michael Longaker, one of the paper’s authors, believes fat could be the perfect solution.
Longaker calls liposuction leftovers “liquid gold“, because certain cells within the fat can be readily converted to usable stem cells. What’s more, it can be done much quicker and easier than current methods. Most stem cells are derived from skin tissue, but this can take at least 4 weeks until the stem cells are ready for use. There is also a risk of cross-species contamination, because “feeder cells” taken from mice must often be used to help the human cells grow.
The new method, detailed online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, can start producing stem cells on the same day as the fat is extraced. What’s more, it doesn’t require the use of feeder cells to get going.
Liposuction is most often used as a form of cosmetic surgery, but this development could see us all undergoing a minor form of the treatment. Removing small amounts of fat from a patient’s own body would allow for the creation of stem cells used in their treatment. For example, a person with heart disease could have fat extracted and turned into heart cells, allowing doctors to test out drugs without putting the patient at risk.
Sun, N., Panetta, N., Gupta, D., Wilson, K., Lee, A., Jia, F., Hu, S., Cherry, A., Robbins, R., Longaker, M., & Wu, J. (2009). Feeder-free derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells from adult human adipose stem cells Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0908450106